Shaye Firer has been dancing with American Repertory Ballet (ARB) since 2011, and if you ask her she’ll tell you she auditioned on a whim! Born in Cape Town, South Africa and raised in Vancouver, Canada, she studied with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division. It was ARB company member Karen Leslie Moscato who told her about the auditions for the trainee program. Without hesitation, Shaye hopped on a train, making a decision that has shaped her life into what it is today.
“I was in New York for a summer intensive,” she said. “And so I took a train to New Jersey and did a private—a.k.a absolutely nerve-wracking—audition for Douglas Martin and Mary Barton.”
This whim of a decision proved to be a positive one when Shaye was accepted into the inaugural class of the ARB/Princeton Ballet School Trainee Program, where the students take on a professional training setting. As a trainee, she performed various company roles in Nutcracker, Our Town and Glazunov Variations and was later asked to be in the company by Artistic Director Douglas Martin. Shaye explained that the small, close-knit community that is ARB has created a welcoming environment and helped her grow as a dancer.
“What I enjoy most about being a dancer in the company is how much individual attention we are given in class and in rehearsals,” said Firer.
“Big companies don’t have enough time or enough eyes watching you for everyone to get corrections and improve, but ARB is just the right size that it is possible.”
Committed to presenting ballets from the 19th and 20th centuries, alongside new and existing works by choreographers from today, American Repertory Ballet values individual attention, creating an environment where dancers can truly develop. Artistic Director Douglas Martin said that Shaye has grown with the company.
“Shaye has developed a striking physicality and presence over the past seven years that we’ve been working together,” said Douglas Martin. “Her attack and athleticism are qualities that American dancers are identified with, and along with her strong ballet technique, give Shaye an ability to dance the majority of roles in our repertory.”
Dancers like Shaye are able to work closely with Artistic Director Douglas Martin, Resident Choreographer Mary Barton and Company Teacher Kathleen Moore, constantly being guided to excel at the art of dance.
“I would not be who I am or dance how I dance without ARB,” she said. “Douglas and Mary and Kathleen and all the other teachers have pushed and guided me to be my very best. We are so lucky to have them teaching us.”
One of the many ways the company has fulfilled its mission of bringing the joy of dance to New Jersey is performing the Nutcracker each year since 1963. As a company member, Shaye has been able to perform in this extravagant tradition as one of her favorite roles, the Sugar Plum Fairy. She explained that the Nutcracker performance can become tedious and tiring after being done so many times, but dancing elegantly to beautiful music makes it worth it.
“When I hear the pas de deux music with the orchestra, everything goes away.”
Photo By Leighton Chen Monica Giragosian
This dancer story was written by Summer 2016 ARB intern Mary Berko.